Posts Tagged ‘Newborn Photography’

January 1, 2015

Newborn Photos by the Tree

Happy New Year! Are you tired of Christmas yet? I’m sure not (although this is probably my last Christmas related posted until next December.) One thing I can’t get enough of is photographing Christmas Trees.

There are two ways of doing tree photos: shallow focus (wide aperture, short exposure) and deep focus (narrow aperture, long exposure). Personally I like the wide aperture when shooting up close. It makes our artificial tree look less artificial, and means I don’t need to use a tripod. When shooting from a distance, however, I just love the way the narrow aperture gives a nice star effect to the tree lights.

treelights
Aperture and Christmas Tree Lights

I love Christmas, and I love newborns, so naturally I wanted some newborn Christmas photos by the tree.

christmasnewborn
So Dreamy
F/16, 15 second exposure, 50mm prime lens, ISO-125

The setup was really simple. I used a pillow on top of one of our storage boxes to raise Alexis high enough that the Christmas tree would fill the entire background. Under the blanket is a water proof sheet, and under that a heating pad. I used Nick Kelsh’s tip of white Christmas tree lights (sans pizza box) to cast a nice soft glow on Alexis. I wanted the Christmas light star effect, so I needed a narrow aperture and long exposure. That meant turning off most of the other lights in our living room, and cranking the ISO way down.

christmastreesetup
The pull back. Ignore the scattered toys, my home is in perpetual mess state these days.

A long exposure requires a (mostly) still baby. Breathing is obviously okay. No babies should be harmed in the making of this photo! Once I put Alexis down I gave her a good 15 minutes to get into a nice deep sleep. Don’t forget your safety spotter! Even newborns will sometimes roll, especially if the surface their on is uneven.

Once she was asleep I needed to act quick. From start to finish I only had 28 minutes before Alexis was stirring too much for me to continue. In order to ensure I’d end up with some usable frames I made only one adjustment between frames. Between one frame I might straighten out the blanket under Alexis’ head. Before another I might move her hand away from blocking her mouth. That way there’s less risk of her waking enough to stir, and also I’m guaranteed to have some photos to fall back on in the event that she does wake up.

For comparison, here is one of the first photos I took of Alexis and the tree (barely a week old!) with wide aperture. She’s not asleep. One of the nice things about fast shutter speeds, you can catch those eyes closed, fleeting smiles moments!

christmasnewborn2
f/2, 1/50 sec, ISO-1000
(not using Nick Kelsh’s tree light trick)

My favorite photos are always from Christmas time.

When I first picked up my camera to take newborn photographs of Nicole, I was convinced I had missed my chance. It was already well passed the golden 10 day mark, and I had never done it before. I was worried I wouldn’t get her to fall asleep, or ball up so nicely in that quintessential newborn pose. As luck would have it, I’d continue to be able to get “newborn” photos all the way up to 6 weeks.

This time around I was determined to start early, so that I could film Alexis in that golden period that photographers rave about. And boy did I start early – at just 3 days old!

Babies change so incredibly fast! I mean, “duh!”, but I didn’t see it before because I wasn’t taking as many photos. This time I have some photos of Alexis in nearly the same pose from different days and I see it!

Alexis at 1 week
One Week

Alexis at 2 weeks
Two Weeks

Look at that head growth! And to think, she started out in the 96th percentile for head size, just like her big sister did.

As fast as they grow, you can still make an older baby look tiny

I couldn’t figure it out with Nicki. I had photos of her as a sleeping “newborn” at 6 weeks were she looked smaller than at 2 weeks.

Perception of size is influenced by relative head size to body size. Newborn heads are about 1/3rd their body. How the head is positioned next to the body can make it seem larger or smaller. In this pose Nicki’s body is turned away from the camera, making her body look smaller relative to her head. When her body is parallel to the camera, it looks the longest, making her appear like an older baby.

Props are also incredibly helpful for size comparisons, especially when shooting against a simplified background.

Just because they’re young, sleepy and flexible doesn’t mean they’ll pose the way you want them to! As much as Alexis likes to have her arms swaddled, she likes to stretch those legs. I have tried time and time again to get her to curl up for a photo. No dice if she’s awake, and even asleep she’ll stretch out those legs and stick her butt up in the air.

While I have yet to get her in my favorite balled up pose, she has rewarded my patience with some incredible expressions. I’m getting so many smiles that I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not just the smile reflex or gas, but actual smiles. Crazy talk, I know.

newborngiggles
6 days old going on 3 months?

As much as I’d love to have a balled up baby pose, I do enjoy having different photos of the girls to put on my wall. They are, after all, different people.

Lesson learned: shoot early, shoot often, but don’t sweat it if you miss some days or even a week or two. They are darn cute at any age!

The other day I was suddenly stuck by the desire to have newborn-toes-and-wedding-rings photos. I blame the desire on the fact that I’m suddenly taking so many more photos, and going back over the old ones. Nothing makes me want to pick up a camera more than looking at old photos, especially when I’m learning so much more about photography! I keep thinking about all the ways I can improve those old photos and pinning for a time machine.

toerings

I waited until Nicki was napping in the rock n’ play. (I love that thing, not only has it been a must have for newborn baby sleep, but some of the best photos are from the rock n’ play!) Her feet were elevated in the rock n’ play which made this a particularly easy shoot. The only problem? A seven month baby wakes up when you put something on her toes! She woke up instantly.

whatsthis
What’s this?
If ever there was a time for a safety spotter, rings on baby toes are it! Guess where that ring is going if\when she get’s it off! We also had a few sudden baby movements followed by hunting for the missing ring. It would definitely be easier to do this style of photo when she was a sleepy newborn.

Luckily I waited until she was 2 hours into her morning nap which is usually 2 and a half hours. Nicki was rested enough to be in a good mood, but really curious about what was on her toes. I ended up giving her a ‘new toy’ (a stuffed animal from my dresser she’s never seen) to distract her which gave me a chance to experiment with different lightening and angles. And they’re gorgeous. These are all unedited.

rings2
With the desk light on. Normally I prefer natural light only, but I like the added warmth in the photo.

rings3
Natural light from the window.

I am really impressed how well these turned out. Yes, her feet are a little plumper than they were when she was six months ago, but I don’t really think it’s noticeable. And, maybe even a little preferable? Lesson learned: never let the fear that your baby is too old stop you from picking up your camera.

I love these so much I have a new header photo for my blog and twitter account! I plan on changing my facebook cover photo as well, but I only recently updated it to a photo of the crochet baby blocks my mother-in-law made Nicki which makes her very happy. I’ll leave the baby blocks up for a little while longer first.

It’s Christmas card time! I know, I’m so so late. I’m ordering them tomorrow.

christmaslights

Nicki was not in a cooperating mood, but I managed to snap this – my new favorite photo of Nicki. It’s not the one I have on our card. It’s better than the ones I choose, but doesn’t match the idea I have for the card.

Anyway, I showed it to a few friends and one got concerned for Nicki’s safety (because of lead exposure, risk of electrocution, strangulation, etc, etc). Let me reassure you no babies were harmed in the making of this photo. I realized that I never really talked about safety in all my newborn and baby photography posts and that maybe I should.

I have two different modes in taking photos.

When I’m using my phone I’m in mom mood. It’s quick snap a picture when the baby is doing something cute mode. I’m right there, focused on the baby.

When I’m using my DSLR, I’m in photographer mode. This is the mode where I spend time setting up, and plan out in advance what I want to do. Im concentrating on how the photos are turning out. In order to use certain lenses I need to be 5 to 8 feet back, that’s not necessarily close enough to react should baby stick something, like an electric cord, in her mouth, or roll off a raised surface. In this mode I use a safety spotter.

When I set up – because there’s always at least a minimum of testing the light and setting the exposure settings – I discuss my plans and any safety concerns with my spotter (usually Domingo.). He then stays just barely out of frame, focusing on the baby while I snap away.

Having a safety spotter is great for a couple reasons.
– I don’t think of everything. When I mentioned this picture idea to Domingo, he was concerned about the possible electric shock that could occur with the baby drool if the lights weren’t shielded enough and suggested indoor/outdoor lights to be safe. That hadn’t occurred to me.
– My attention is divided. During one of the newborn photo shoots Nicki managed to maneuver close to the edge if the couch. My mom noticed it before I did because I was looking through the viewfinder. I didn’t want the edge of the couch in the picture, so the couch edge wasn’t visible through the viewfinder. I had no way of knowing how close she had gotten to the edge.

I don’t always use a spotter. I’ve taken pictures of Nicki in her crib without a spotter. Then again, I have dropped the iPhone on her before (just once!) so maybe I need one when in mom mode too.

August 25, 2012

Newborn Photography Recap

Now that Nicki is on her way to two months, I think our ‘newborn’ photography days are over. It was fun, and I certainly learned a lot. I wish I could photographer her in this stage forever! I wish I could cuddle with her in this stage forever!

newborn

Tips:

I know I’ve said this before, but apparently I don’t follow my own advice, so it bears repeating: Take lots of photos! Even if you think you have ‘the shot’ take a couple more from different angles and different distances. I loved the photo of Nicki and Phia (the second). I wanted to have a canvas print of it, but what looks good as a 3:4 aspect ratio, does not necessarily work for a 4:5! It couldn’t be cropped without cutting off some of Nicki. I spent two weeks trying to recreate the shot, but lightening did not strike twice. I did get a similar photo to use, just not one I liked nearly as much. I would have saved myself a lot of grief if I had just taken multiple photos when she was sleeping in the perfect pose.

Practice, practice, practice! I can not tell you how much more I loved the photos of each successive iteration over the ones from the last. The first ones? They’re okay, but I like them no where near as much as the one on the top of the page. I wish I could take everything that I learned and go back to when she was just days old. What I should have done was offered to photography my friends’ newborn babies. That way they would have gotten free extra photos (they can still hire a professional, of course), and I would have had the experience.

Comfort is king! Try and make your baby as comfortable as possible. Turn off the A/C, fill their belly’s with milk, etc. Don’t force them into any pose that your baby seems to be resisting. You wouldn’t want to risk hurting your baby, after all! I find that the more comfortable Nicki is, the easier I have posing her, and the more likely she will remain in that pose long enough for me to take a picture. You can hold her (gently, of course!) in a pose for a few seconds and she’ll keep it. If she’s uncomfortable, she’s much more likely to wake up and move.

For older babies, once you place them down on your setup, give them a few minutes to settle back down – even if they remain asleep. At least in our case, if I started fusing with her diaper, or trying to pose her too early she would wake up again. Even just the sound of the shutter could wake her if she wasn’t in a good deep sleep. Similarly if she wakes up in the middle of a shoot, take a break to see if she’ll go back to sleep.

Props are nice, but they don’t need to be expensive and you don’t need to go overboard. I tried several different backdrops, including ‘professional’ ones. The backdrop I kept coming back to? A 2 yard block of fabric I bought at Joeann’s for $5. Not only was it beautiful and amazing soft, but at $5 I won’t care if the baby stains become permanent!

Remember, you only need a few good shots, and no one has to see the bad ones. There’s a lot of elements at play here, baby’s mood (or her sleepiness), lighting if you’re using natural light, baby’s bladder, etc. When working in manual mode, I’d have all the settings that I want. Then the sun would go behind a cloud, and all of a sudden my exposure is too dark. I’d correct it, and the sun would come back out. The first day I attempted to photography Nicki, I hated every photo I took. It’s easy to get hung up on what isn’t working, but try and focus on what is instead. Each time you pick up the camera, you will have better results. Don’t stop because you think your baby is ‘too old’. While babies grow fast, they don’t change that much day-to-day. You will have another opportunity.

I love baby fingers and toes. (Who doesn’t, really?) These were some of the hardest DIY Newborn Photos for me to take to date, and I don’t really have advice other than to be patient and keep trying until you get the shots you want.

What makes them so hard? Well, their teeny tiny for one, and baby tends to move them around a lot. Keeping focus on a teeny tiny moving target can be a bit of a challenge. And when you want to take a photo of the baby holding your own hand, well, it just adds another bit of complexity. I even tried a sleeping baby, and while that helped, she still moves her hands and feet even when zonked.


Nicki holding my finger

In the above photo she’s holding my left hand, which enters the frame from the right. Yes, my wrist is bent backwards and awkwardly positioned to keep my arm out of the way as I take the photo with my right hand. I’m also blocking the light, and on top of that the background isn’t smooth. C’est la vie.

holdinghand

Those are Domingo’s hands in the next two photos. Much easier!

I was happy with our last iteration of new born photography. One thing about me, though, I can never have enough photos!

For the DIY maternity photos I used two props: a pink ribbon and my stuffed unicorn, Phia. I thought it would be fun to use the same props with Nicole, so I could compare in-the-belly with out-of-the-belly.


With Ribbon

Props are also great because they give you a point of reference as to how big the baby actually is. Nicole has been on the smaller size on height/weight charts. She was under 8 lbs and only 20 inches at two weeks, so I doubt she’d be much more than 9 lbs flat now. Some babies are born larger than that at birth! Yet her full head of hair and tendency to stretch out tends to make her look older than she actually is. I also have a tendency to fill the whole frame with the baby, which gives the perspective that she’s much bigger than she is in reality.

The fact that she can now lift her head, if but just for a second, and follow people with her eyes also makes her look older. But it’s darn cute to take of picture of her doing that!


Hi, Mama!
I need to find some craft project to do with that ribbon. Maybe a picture box with the pregnancy and newborn photos.

One new trick I learned was to use a heating pad under the blankets. Nicki is much more inclined to stay in the newborn “frog” position on the heating pad. The bunched up look also makes her look a little smaller and more ‘newborn’ like. She’s also much more inclined to sleep on the heating pad. And I thought my days of sleeping baby photos were over! I think she looks much more ‘newborn’ in these photos then the ones I took over a week ago. (I ended up retaking some of the same poses from last time for just that reason!)

I set my heating pad to low, and placed it under the waterproof blanket. It is electric after all! Alternatively, I could have left it on to warm up the spot, then turned it off before placing the baby on it.

She was so content on the heating pad that I was able to experiment with a lot of different angles and camera settings. I’ve found that shooting from a low angle, with the camera perfectly parallel to the baby tends to make the baby look a little longer and leaner. Shooting high and at a slight angle will make her look a little more chubby and cute. Getting her to arch her back a touch while she sleeps also helps. I also found a wide aperture really does wonders for making baby’s skin look smooth. For the one with Phia, I set the F-stop to f/2.5.


With ‘Phia’

If Phia looks a little different it’s because, well, she is. Someone had a little accident on our first photography attempt, and someone else made the mistake of putting Phia in the washing machine and dryer. Phia came out of the dryer looking like she had had one of those army buzzcuts. Her main and tail were so matted down they were completely flat. I was able to brush them out using corn startch, but they are still quite bushy rather than straight and wispy like before. She’s still drying out. At least I can now add “restore a stuffed animal that was destroyed in the washing machine” to my list of skills. Of course, I can also add “destroy a stuffed animal in the washing machine” too. In the mean time, this is Phia’s stand in, Phia #2.


Phia and Nicki before the great Pee Incident of 2012. It’s not the best photo, but we only got three in before the event happened.

We’ll try again with the real Phia later.

July 27, 2012

DIY Newborn Photography

There’s truth in what they say, that the first two weeks are a bit of a blur. I hadn’t made up my mind about newborn photography – whether I would do it myself or higher a professional – but the next thing I knew Nicki was two and a half weeks old and we hadn’t even looked at photographers, let alone booked one! Playing to my fears that we had waited to long, the internet said three weeks is ‘old man age’ for newborns. Newborn photos are easiest for babies 8 to 10 day and younger, when they are the most sleepy. I panicked. Had we missed our opportunity?

I was a bit intimidated. I liked the maternity photos I took, but that was over a period of 40 weeks. I had plenty of time to learn what works. Normally I take hundreds of photos to get a few I really like. Newborns are not exactly known for their patience. I was worried I had waited too long and Nicki was no longer in her sleepy newborn phase. I knew I’d have only a brief window to try.

DIY newborn photography turned out to be not as difficult as I thought. Being behind the camera rather than in front of it, like for DIY Maternity Photography makes a world of difference. Still, I see areas I can improve.

I started with the advice I had read on the internet:
(1) Turn off the A/C and up the heat. Warm babies are happy babies, but naked babies need more heat to be warm! We let the temperature rise to 76 degrees in the house.
(2) Feed baby. Babies with full tummies of warm milk tend to be sleepy, and sleepy babies are more manageable. I stripped Nicki down to her diaper to feed her. I then removed her diaper, wrapped her up in a towel (just in case!) and rocked her to sleep.

I used the love seat for my photo setup. The seat offered me a variety of angles to choose from. I could crotch down to baby’s level or stand up if I wanted to take any looking down at her, shoot with her directly in front of me, or angle to the side. I turned the love seat around so it faced the window and the good light. I also removed the back cushions so the backdrop fabric would drap nicely. The seat cushions were fairly firm, and good for resting baby on. I did try and angle the cushions slightly for a better view of baby by placing a rolled up towel under them the back corner of the cushions. I then put a plastic cover over the couch (we had one pee incident during filming!) and a nice white linen over top to act as the backdrop. Once setup, I was ready to feed and prep the baby.

Nicki still cooperated with me, and I was able to get a sleepy ‘newborn’ photo. Belly full of warm milk, some rocking and she was asleep and pliable (though maybe not as flexible as in her younger weeks. I kid, I kid.)

awake

sleeping2

Nicki did cry the first couple of times I put her on the couch. Since we use the Rock N’ Play she wasn’t used to lying flat on her back (or on her tummy!). But after a few minutes, she calmed down and decided she liked the position. It also helped that we picked early morning, when she’s usually her happiest go-lucky self. Another great aspect of the DIY approach, you can shoot multiple times or multiple days. If baby is fussy and not cooperating one day it’s no problem; just try again tomorrow. The photos I shared were over a couple different iterations. I snap as many photos as I can before she gets fussy and look at them afterwards when she’s down for her nap.

One word of caution: have a spotter/baby calmer. I had my mom help who is a bit of a baby whisperer. She made sure Nicki stayed far from the edge of the couch cushion, so I didn’t have to worry about accidents. She also talked to the baby while I snapped away to help keep baby’s interest and direct baby’s attention. It also made for this hilarious outtake.


Outtake 1: My mom’s hand as she pats the fussy baby.

And, of course, sometimes you strike gold by accident.


Outtake 2: I dub this one “You wish you were as cool as I am”